Ministerial Meeting on the 50th Anniversary of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)
Brief summary of presentation of information made
- Ms. Helen Clark, UNDP Administrator said that the world has changed over the last 50 years and UNDP has changed with it, but that their central mission has not. She explained this mission as the eradication of poverty, with a contemporary emphasis on doing so while reducing inequality and protecting the planet. She invited ministers to reflect on UNDP and share their most ambitious dreams for global development.
The first panel was a retrospective focusing on Highlights of Human and Sustainable Development Stories. The Moderator was Mr. Stephen Sackur.
- H.E. President Faure Gnassingbé, Togo, said that UNDP’s work in Togo is multiform and highlighted the work it has done in helping Togo emerge from political, economic, and social crisis. He noted that UNDP had constantly stayed in Togo and particularly that it had facilitated the holding of elections in 2005 and a national reconciliation process towards Justice, Truth, and Reconciliation. He added that this long crisis had led to delays in achieving the Millennium Development Goals but that UNDP had conceived and launched an acceleration mechanism which enabled Togo to catch up. He looked forward to an extended capacity programme to take the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) into account. The Moderator asked if the first SDG to eradicate poverty was “just another piece of UN rhetoric” to which HE replied with a focus on the contemporary consequences of poverty in terms of terrorism, trafficking and other issue which he saw as much more devastating that consequences in the past. He suggested that countries should mobilise development at home as well as looking for support from abroad.
- H.E. Mr. Rafael Pardo Minister for Post-Conflict, Human Rights and Security, Colombia, began by saying that after five decades of conflict Colombia was just weeks away from closing that chapter of its history. He noted the need for a peace building process once peace has been initially made as well as the need for the integration of Colombia. The Moderator asked for HE’s reflection on the need for equality, mentioning in particular the rural poor. The minister replied by noting that the need for urban/rural equality was fundamental noting that conflict had particularly affected the rural areas. He highlighted that the SDGs were perfectly consistent with Colombia’s post-conflict goals.
- H.E. Mr. Cevdet Yilmaz, Minister of Development, Turkey, was asked by The Moderator if he was satisfied with UNDP’s crisis management. HE replied that he was not satisfied at all. He noted that the global crisis cannot be overcome without helping others highlighting that Turkey is an emerging donor country.
- H.E. Ms. Kristina Persson, Minister for Strategic Development and Nordic Cooperation, Sweden, was asked by The Moderator if Europe can afford to keep funding UN projects given its current political situation, noting that Sweden was one of the most generous donor countries. HE replied that Sweden will definitely remain committed to development aid. She expressed concern about the “nationalistic and conservative backward thinking” in much of the “developed world” which she called a threat to peace and security. She was asked about the efficiency of UNDP and replied that if it was always efficient we would have a different world. The minister highlighted a need for local, national, and global governance but concluded by saying “without hope we wouldn’t be here, would we?”
- H.E. Prof. Ahsan Iqbal, Federal Minister for Planning, Development and Reform, Pakistan, was asked by The Moderator if he came to the meeting with “optimism and positivity or something darker”. HE replied that it is easy to make goals but that they cannot be achieved without a mechanism which moves with the same ambition and speed. He noted that the advantage of working with UNDP is that they always listened and they have the strength of holding no political agenda. He said that the globe has a shared destiny and that it can no longer have isolated islands of prosperity.
- H.E. Dr. Sahar Nasr, Minister of International Cooperation, Egypt, said that UNDP has been a strategic partner for Egypt and noted particularly the coordination UNDP has done on work in Gender alongside UN Women. The minister said that UNDP had been an impartial advisor and was seen as the face of the UN in Egypt. She noted its work on job creation and its key role in promoting governance and transparency. The Moderator asked to what extent SDG1 [the eradication of poverty] can be taken seriously. HE said that there needed to be a focus on the young generation, particularly for job creation, as over 50% of Egypt are young people.
Mr. Tegegnework Gettu , UNDP Associate Administrator introduced “UNDP’s Offer for Agenda 2030”
- Mr Gettu called the SDGs the “beginning of a new era” as the first ever global development framework and noted the need to begin translating plans into action. He introduced a video by UNDP on the 2030 Agenda and “connection the dots” between people and planet.
Their followed a series of breakout sessions, with this reporter attending Session 1 – “Eradicating Poverty – Leaving No One Behind”, moderated by Mr. Stephen Sackur.
- The Chair, S.E. Sra. Rossana Guevara, Vice-President, Honduras, was asked by The Moderator to comment on indigenous people who are disproportionately poor. SE replied with a focus on the need to help people restore their dignity noting that there are cultural dimensions which are often not taken into consideration. She continued that it is vital for indigenous people, and indigenous women particularly to take part in the public sphere an to be involved in the process.
- H.E. Mr. Abdulaziz Mohammed, Minister of Finance and Economic Cooperation, Ethiopia, was asked by The Moderator to explain how climate challenges can be factored in to poverty elimination. HE replied that climate change presents a serious challenge and there is a need for political commitment and economic growth. However, he noted that economic growth is not itself a sufficient condition for poverty elimination.
- H.E. Ms. Lilianne Ploumen, Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation, Netherlands, was asked by The Moderator to comment on delivering as a donor country in a difficult political environment. HE replied that the Netherlands is very interested in helping and that inequality, both locally and globally is unsustainable. In response to a question she said that inequality in the Netherlands is not on the rise and that it is one of the most equal societies in the world. She said, however, that the issue of inequality needs to be debated more. The Moderator suggested that you cannot really “preach equality” to the “developing world” if you do not tackle it in your own country. HE replied that “it’s about taxes” saying that it is important to tax fairly within nations and globally. She noted that the Netherlands is the only country to have renegotiated its tax policies with other countries and said that multinational companies should not pay less tax than women at the market place.
- A representative from Egypt responded to a question from The Moderator regarding the importance of inequality versus absolute poverty, to say that it is not just enough to focus on ending extreme poverty. She suggested that equality is necessary for peace and harmony but that we also need inclusion. The Moderator asked if she thought her government had delivered equality and inclusion. She noted that Egypt has recently had a revolution and disassociated the current government from previous governments. She noted good progress on school enrolment of girls and maternal mortality. Said that political inclusion is now particularly important noting the move from 6 to 89 parliamentary seats being taken by women. She suggested that economic participation is more difficult to achieve and commented on work for expanded safety nets and increased health security.
- H.E. Mr. Liu Jieyi, Permanent Representative to the United Nations (rank of Vice-Minister), China, was introduced by The Moderator who commented that no country has lifted more people out of poverty than China but that the last mile tends to be the hardest, and asked how China could reach the remaining very poor people. HE said that China has special preferential policies for vulnerable groups and that it was invested in development and capacity building. He also said that a China UN Peace and Development Fund was to be established. The Moderator asked if China felt a duty to intervene when funds are misused. HE responded that China does not attach political conditions to aid as they do not see themselves as “better” than the countries to which they give aid. From the floor a speaker from the Belgium Development Corperation asked if family planning was attached to China’s poverty reduction work and The Moderator asked if the use of Chinese bulding contractors was a similar attachment. Mr. Jieyi replied that the projects do not come from China but are chosen by the recipient countries and that China never imposes anything on these projects
- H.E. Ms. Rosine-Sori Coulibaly, Minister of Economy, Finance and Development, Burkina Faso, was asked by The Moderator to comment on work to address poverty among rural women. HE noted a figure of 40% below the poverty line and that Burkina Faso is very dry with only three months of rainfall. She noted their economic programme for 2016-2020 will be one of the pillars of sustained growth and the need to ensure that young people do not fall into terrorist activity. She said that all the SDGs focus on people and highlighted efforts to work on human capital, training that responds to development needs – particularly specialized skills, and work on health. She also mentioned the need for governance.
- H.E. Mr. Damcho Dorji, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Bhutan, was asked by The Moderator to comment on the key challenges to delivering SDG 1. HE replied with reference to their Gross National Happiness Development Policy which recorded that only 8.8% of the country listed themselves as unhappy. The Moderator focused on whether it was possible to be poor and happy, contrasting the 8.8% unhappy with the 12% in extreme poverty, suggesting that happiness provided an alternative way of viewing the situation and that there should not be an obsession with income figures.
- H.R.H. Prince Hlangusemphi Dlamini Minister of Economic Planning and Development, Swaziland, was asked by The Moderator how Swaziland was going to solve poverty. HRH responded that there would be development at all levels with various sizes of enterprise from medium level to microenterprises. He said that climate change has “messed us up” as Swaziland is a largely agricultural society, but noted the importance for countries to dream.
- Mr. Joăo Almino de Souza Filho, Director, Brazilian Cooperation Agency, Brazil, was asked by The Moderator whether Brazil’s new welfare safety-net system has solved poverty in Brazil. Mr. Almino replied that it was not solved but that “commitment” is fundamental. He noted that Brazil has had impressive reductions in extreme poverty. The Moderator asked how fragile this progress was to which Mr. Almino replied that the most vulnerable will be the least effected by any fall-back.
- H.E. Ms. Hadja Makalé Camara, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Guinea, was asked by The Moderator how Guinea has coped with the fallout from the Ebola crisis and whether response to this issue has pushed out development agendas. HE replied that the Ebola crisis had revealed countries’s healthcare weaknesses and that infrastructure is key to development. She noted that it is roads that bring development to rural areas and suggested that the biggest problem is inequality between rural and urban areas. She said there was a need for emphasis on youth employment and the integration of women, noting promising current levels of inclusion.
- S.E. Sr. Patricio Benegas, Secretario de Coordinación y Cooperación Internacional, Argentina, was asked by The Moderator if the promise for zero poverty could be delivered. SE replied that he was very sure, that the President has made a commitment to eradicate poverty and that there was also a social and moral commitment. He noted that it is hard to determine the actual level of poverty and that we need reliable statistics and discussion on the types of poverty.
- H.E. Mr. Dimitris Mardas, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Greece, said that Greece has the will to correct things. He was asked by The Moderator if Greece can afford to be thinking about sending aid and replied that there is money in the European Union if €5 bil can be found. The Moderator said that Greece was becoming less rich and had growing inequality.
- Ms. Andrea Vignolo, Executive Director, International Cooperation Agency, Uruguay, noted the importance of reducing inequalities. The Moderator asked if Uruguay still needs assistance from UNDP to which Ms. Vignolo replied “of course we do” noting that UNDP had been with them throughout the process and that there are still gaps to be filled.
- A representative from Kenya said that we have the potential to address our problems in the context of climate change. He noted the particular vulnerabilities of women, children, youth, those geographically disadvantaged, older people, and the disabled.
- The Moderator summed up the lessons learned by suggesting that poverty eradication is not just about measuring income but also about wellbeing and happiness, that in particular it is not just about per capita income but also about gender equality, rural/urban equality and indigenous equality, that even efficient governments can’t do anything about climate change, and that the last mile is the most difficult to travel. He concluded by noting that the poor who remain poor after previous development efforts are the most voiceless and that we need genuine political leadership. He said we need a generation of leaders who care.
What was of particular significance to share with The Salvation Army globally?
Contemporary development needs to be looked at holistically. Climate change, gender issues, community, conflict, politics, children, migration, trafficking, terrorism, rural v urban issues, indigenous peoples and other issues are all intrinsically linked to poverty eradication efforts.
Poverty is not simply about income. Equality and inclusion are an important goals alongside poverty eradication as well as welfare and happiness. Reduction of inequality is contained within SDG 1 to eradicate poverty.
Political tensions and agendas often affect development work. There is a need for compassion and non-political engagement. However, it is also important to engage with politicised issues such as taxation of multinationals. In particular there is a need for non-judgmental, un-patronizing, listening engagement with countries who receive aid and assistance.
The engagement and inclusion of young people in economical and political processes is key to achieving sustainable development.
After 15 years of coordinated development efforts with the MDGs those still in poverty are going to be the hardest to reach and those who have the least voice. Compassion, advocacy, and selflessness will be needed to eradicate poverty.
Environmental and climate factors can damage development efforts whatever government and agencies do.
Crises can often cause development work to stall. UNDP has worked to accelerate development after such crises.
There is a need for commitment if the SDGs are to be achieved.
Web links for more information
UNDP 50th Anniversary
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